Member Spotlights During COVID-19
April 1, 2020
April 1, 2020
“I’m reaching out to my students because I know many families in the Richmond community struggle with adversity. Many of our students have single parents or other guardians who struggle to cope with job, food and financial security. Though many of these adults are loving providers, their emotional safety net is very thin. I worry about the mental health and safety of our students and their families during this time. I’m also anxious because in first grade many of the students are really starting to read with some fluency and gaining some number sense in the third marking period and that is now disrupted.
In addition to the postcards I’ve sent my students and the recorded readings teachers at our school are doing, I’ll be sending something in the mail every week. This week I will make copies of the class picture and send it home. I also plan to call every family once a week and try to say hello to the student.
I think 1st grade academic needs are more easily overcome than some of the higher grades, so as a first grade teacher, I can focus on social and emotional support now and catch up on academics in due time. I will try to send home fun learning activities like worksheets and such but not worry about grades and data so much. In my opinion, now is the time to focus on school as the community and safe haven we know it to be for so many of our families. Of course, if the district decides otherwise, we will do our best to follow those guidelines.”
Andy Brower, Richmond Education Association
Kathy Grant was out sick the last Friday before Virginia’s schools closed. “We thought we’d be back soon,” says the Charlottesville Education Association member and preschool teacher at Clark Elementary School. “I didn’t get to say goodbye to the kids and they didn’t get to say goodbye to each other. We went from all this learning to nothing, all of a sudden.”
She’s doing everything she can to turn that “nothing” into something very meaningful these days, starting when she delivered activity bags to the homes of each of her 16 students. Grant also sends a daily email to keep students and families in the loop about the school and offering some activity options.
This week, she’s setting up appointments to bring by a second activity bag. “I need to be sure that someone’s there so the bag ends up where it’s supposed to,” she says, noting that now, with updated health precautions, she’ll just have to leave the bags on the doorstep. A friend who speaks Spanish well will accompany her to help with her Spanish-speaking families.
“I just miss the kids,” Grant says, “and I want to help them and their parents. I want to make sure people are OK.”
When Buchanan County schools closed on a Friday, for what staff thought would be for two weeks, staff got to work to ensure that students who rely on school breakfast and lunch programs didn’t go hungry. Phone calls were made to see how many meals would be needed over the weekend and deliveries began Monday.
Now that schools are closed for the rest of the academic year, buses are leaving school parking lots at 10 a.m. to make deliveries every day.
“This has been a wonderful opportunity for me personally,” says BCEA member Kathy Witt, principal at Council High School. “I have been allowed to see where my students live. It blesses my heart to see kids come out to get their meals. Some of the small children stay on their porches and just wave and yell hello. They get so excited when you speak back to them. Providing food to families who you know depend on school meals to help feed their children is an awesome thing to be a part of.”
Bobcats Gotta Dance! Ernest Chambers, a Charlottesville Education Association member and physical education teacher at Burnley-Moran Elementary School, made sure his students didn’t miss the “Avocado Dance” they would have done at that morning’s all-school meeting. When his Bobcats saw this on the city schools’ Facebook page, they knew he was thinking about them!
For many Virginia teachers, teaching from home means firing up the home computer and getting online. For DeAnna Day, a member of the Amherst Education Association, it’s a bit more of a challenge. She lives in neighboring Nelson County, a rural environment where internet access isn’t always easy to come by.
“I live in an area without cell service and I don’t have access to a land line,” Day says. “So I have to drive to one of the Amherst schools and sit in the parking lot in order to have internet and get work done.”
The school is a 12-mile trip, each way.
When she gets there, Day, who teaches English as a Second Language, can translate documents and school communications for students and parents. While parked, she’s also making phone and video calls to them through Google Hangouts and collaborating with other teachers through email and Google documents.
School closures have had their own special pain for music teachers. “There’s no ensemble,” says Dave Carroll, a music educator and member of the Washington County Education Association, “no way for people to make music together.”
So, he’s found a unique way to keep his student singing—and healthy. Every day, beginning shortly after Gov. Northam ordered schools shuttered, he’s filmed himself singing a different song and washing his hands, then posted the videos for his students (and the world) to enjoy. Both the singing and the hand-washing go on for the CDC-recommended 20-30 seconds.
Carroll is not at all worried about running out of tunes. “That’s the easy part,” he says, with a laugh. “I’ve changed genres and done mini-series. I can go on for a long time.” His numbers so far have included everything from “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” to “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift.
Check out Carroll’s lineup of hit at http://tinyurl.com/handsongs. Make sure to turn on the faucet first.